Daily Archives

Docs warn about Facebook use and teen depression

AP — Add “Facebook depression” to potential harms linked with social media, an influential doctors’ group warns, referring to a condition it says may affect troubled teens who obsess over the online site. Researchers disagree on whether it’s simply an extension of depression some kids feel in other circumstances, or a distinct condition linked with using the online site. But there are unique aspects of Facebook that can make it a particularly tough social landscape to navigate for kids already dealing with poor self-esteem, said Dr. Gwenn O’Keeffe, a Boston-area pediatrician and lead author of new American Academy of Pediatrics social media guidelines. Read article

Bahraini protesters defy curfew

PressTV – “Protesters, chanting ‘down with the regime’ and waving placards, played cat and mouse with the police,” a Press TV correspondent reported. Read article

Japan raps nuclear operator over radiation mistake

Reuters – Mistaken radiation readings given out by the operator of Japan’s crippled nuclear plant were “absolutely unforgivable,” the government’s chief spokesman said on Monday, as highly radioactive water was found to have leaked out of a reactor. Engineers have been battling to control the six-reactor Fukushima complex since it was damaged by a March 11 earthquake and tsunami that also left more than 27,000 people dead or missing across northeast Japan. Fires, explosions and radiation leaks have repeatedly forced them to suspend work, including on Sunday when radiation levels spiked to 100,000 times above normal in water inside reactor No. 2. Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO), the plant operator, had earlier said it was 10 million times the normal level. Read Article

Coal demand, shares up on nuclear unease

Associated Press – With workers at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant still trying to prevent further radiation leaks, other countries are asking whether the benefits of nuclear power outweigh the risks. Uncertainty about the nuclear industry’s future has drawn investors back toward coal and even more into natural gas, domestic energy resources most likely to fill the gap if nuclear production declines. Driving the concern is an upcoming series of reviews by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission of nuclear facilities seeking to renew their licenses. The eight U.S. plans facing review before 2020 produce 6.7 gigawatts of energy, one analyst pointed out Friday. Replacing that capacity would require 20 million metric tons of Appalachian coal, or 66 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas, said Dahlman Rose & Co. analyst Daniel Scott. At those levels, output of the fuels would increase by 6 percent and 2 percent, respectively. The NRC has not rejected a nuclear license renewal in its 35-year history, Scott said. Japan’s disaster, the worst since the Chernobyl meltdown in 1986, makes challenges more likely, he said. Read Article

Libyan rebels stream west towards Gaddafi hometown

Reuters – A steady stream of rebels in pick-up trucks mounted with machineguns drove toward Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s hometown of Sirte on Monday, seeking to extend their advance west. A spokesman in Benghazi said rebels based in east Libya had captured Sirte on Monday, but a Reuters correspondent in the city said there was no sign that rebel forces were in control. “We heard from Benghazi that the rebels are in Sirte, but it is not for sure because Gaddafi’s soldiers are firing rockets from Sirte, so we are not certain,” 23-year-old Mohamed, a lawyer turned rebel fighter, said in the town of Ras Lanuf. Emboldened by Western-led air strikes against Gaddafi’s forces, rebels in the oil-producing North African country have pushed west along the Mediterranean coast to retake a series of towns in short order. Read Article

UK police clash with protesters from campaign group

Independent – Hundreds of people attempted to hijack today’s main anti-cuts demonstration to wreak havoc in London’s West End. The Met revealed 202 people were arrested for a variety of offences, including public order offences, criminal damage, aggravated trespass and violent disorder. There were 35 reported injuries over the course of the day, including five police officers. Sixteen were taken to hospital, including one officer. Police were attacked as they tried to stop activists smashing their way into banks and shops. Their action was in stark contrast to and separate from the main TUC rally in Hyde Park which was good natured and passed off peacefully. Campaign group UK Uncut claimed around 200 of its supporters forced themselves into luxury store Fortnum and Mason – known as the Queen’s grocer. A spokesman for the demonstrators said the target was chosen because “they dodge tens of millions in tax”. Branches of HSBC, RBS, Santander and Topshop were among those to have their windows smashed. Read Article

Asthma drug can help fight Alzheimer’s

TOI – In previous studies, Temple University researchers discovered that 5-lipoxygenase, a brain enzyme, controls the activation of gamma secretase, another enzyme responsible for the production of amyloid beta. When produced in excess, amyloid beta causes nerve cell death and forms plaques in the brain. The amount of these amyloid plaques in the brain is used as a measurement of the severity of Alzheimer’s (loss of brain function that affects memory, thinking and behaviour), the American Journal of Pathology reports. Read article
Editor’s Note: Beta-amyloid plaques are NOT known to cause A.D. The scientiific community is almost equally divided on this issue.
Related article: Alzheimer’s Disease: Are Plaques and Tangles, Symptoms, Not the Cause?

Yemen’s President Saleh ‘negotiating’ departure

BBC - But hopes earlier in the day of an imminent deal to end six weeks of crisis appeared to have been dashed. Presidential spokesman Ahmed al-Sufi said opposition demands for an immediate transfer of power were unacceptable. Read article

Household wealth down 23% in 2 years – Fed

CNN Money – The average American family’s household net worth declined 23% between 2007 and 2009, the Federal Reserve said Thursday. A rare survey of U.S. households, first performed in 2007 but repeated in 2009 in order to gauge the effects of the recession, reveals the median net worth of households fell from $125,000 in 2007 to $96,000 in 2009. Titled “Surveying the Aftermath of the Storm,” the report offers a broad look at how the financial crisis impacted individual households. It is widely known that the 2008 financial crisis resulted in the vaporization of trillions of dollars in household wealth. But Federal Reserve officials said Thursday the new report offers a look at exactly how hard the recession hit families, and how they reacted. The numbers paint a stark picture. Read Article

Climate Fact Of The Day – Antarctic Icebergs Play a Previously Unknown Role in Global Carbon Cycle, Climate

Deep Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography
Received 12 November 2010; accepted 12 November 2010. Available online 21 January 2011.

John J. Hellya, c, , , Ronald S. Kaufmannb, Gordon R. Stephenson Jr.c and Maria Vernetc
a San Diego Supercomputer Center, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA
b Marine Science and Environmental Studies Department, University of San Diego, 5998 Alcalá Park, San Diego, CA
c Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA

Iceberg C-18a (35×7×0.184 km) was studied repeatedly by five circumnavigational surveys in March-April 2009. During the period of the surveys, C-18a travelled 109 nautical miles in 23 days covering an area of 8.1×103 km2. This iceberg was formed from iceberg C-18 (76×7 km) that originated from the Ross Ice Shelf in May, 2002. Ship-based measurements show that this iceberg produced fresh meltwater above the seasonal pycnocline that diluted and chilled the water it passed through from the surface to a depth of approximately 50 m (summer mixed layer). The surface meltwater effects were detectable as far away as 19 km and persisted for at least 10 days. We also found evidence that this iceberg was disrupting the Weddell Deep Water to depths up to 1500 m. If we include these deep effects through the water column, the estimate of ocean water altered by this single iceberg reaches 3×1012 m3 over 23 days.
Chemical and biological effects were detected at the same space and time scales as the physical properties, with decreasing partial pressure of carbon dioxide (pCO2) close to the iceberg and lower particle and chlorophyll concentration. Ten days after the passage of C-18a, chlorophyll-a had increased by 15%. These results are consistent with alternative hypotheses regarding the role of icebergs as mediators of a localized geophysical disturbance (H1) as well as promoters of chlorophyll-a production (H2). READ PAPER

Nearly Half of U.S. EPA’s West Coast Radiation Monitors Might be Out Sick (Good Timing)

LA Weekly – We’ve been telling you for almost two weeks now that radiation from Japan was headed our way, but not to worry. We are your friend. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported this week that trace amounts of the Fukushima nuclear power plant radiation was detected in Orange and Riverside Counties — at levels “hundreds of thousands to millions of times below levels of concern.” Okay. But here is a concern: Eight of the EPA’s 18 West Coast monitors might not be working! The agency announced this week that the gizmos were “undergoing quality review,” according to an EPA statement. Reassuring. Maybe this isn’t the best time to have our radiation monitors conk out? Read Article

High Levels of PFCs Might Bring Early Menopause

HealthDay News — Women with higher levels of certain chemicals used in many household products have lower levels of estrogen and are more likely to experience early menopause, a new study finds. Researchers looked at perfluorocarbons (PFCs), which are endocrine-disrupting chemicals found in products such as toys, clothing, furniture, carpets, paints and plastic food containers. This new study of 25,957 women, aged 18 to 65, found an association between PFC exposure, decreased levels of the female sex hormone estradiol, and early menopause in women over age 42. Read article

Study: Even “BPA-Free” Plastics Leach Endrocrine-Disrupting Chemicals

Time – Plastics. They seem so…inert. Slow to erode or decay, with a biodegradation time measured in the hundreds of years, plastics appear cut off from the organic environment in the way that no other product is, safe and secure and sterile. Yet scientists have begun to learn that plastics are anything but impermeable. Plastic containers and linings — especially those used in food containers that might end up being heated or washed — often leach chemicals into the surrounding environment. And some of those chemicals like bisphenol-A (BPA) and phthalates may do strange things to the body, mimicking and disrupting hormones in ways that haven’t yet been fully understood. Read article

Germany stages anti-nuclear marches after Fukushima

BBC – Tens of thousands of Germans have taken part in what are thought to be the country’s biggest-ever protests against nuclear power, in the wake of the Fukushima crisis in Japan. Read article

G.E.’s Strategies Let It Avoid Taxes Altogether

NY Times – General Electric, the nation’s largest corporation, had a very good year in 2010. The company reported worldwide profits of $14.2 billion, and said $5.1 billion of the total came from its operations in the United States. Its American tax bill? None. In fact, G.E. claimed a tax benefit of $3.2 billion. That may be hard to fathom for the millions of American business owners and households now preparing their own returns, but low taxes are nothing new for G.E. The company has been cutting the percentage of its American profits paid to the Internal Revenue Service for years, resulting in a far lower rate than at most multinational companies. Read Article

In Africa, Oil Hunt Raises Concerns About Gorillas

NPR – The Democratic Republic of Congo has rejected a bid by the UK’s Soco International to search for oil in the Virunga National Park. The famous park is home to rare mountain gorillas. Host Scott Simon talks with Matt Lewis, senior program officer for the World Wildlife Fund, who specializes in African species conservation. Read Article

Weaker Bones, Cellphone Use Linked in Small Study

HealthDay News — A small study out of Argentina suggests that cellphone users might be at heightened risk for a weakening of bone in the hip area. Researchers measured bone mineral content and bone mineral density in the left and right hips of 24 men who carried their cellphones in a belt pouch on their right hip for at least one year and 24 men who did not use cellphones. Mineral content and density are standard markers of bone strength. Read article

Syria turmoil: Fresh protests erupt

BBC – Fresh protests have flared in Syria at the end of a week that has seen dozens of demonstrators killed. Offices of the ruling Baath party were burned down in the southern town of Tafas and coastal town of Latakia, witnesses said, while hundreds renewed demonstrations in Deraa. Read article

Britain’s £200bn time bomb of debt interest

Telegraph – A little bit of inflation is a good thing, right? Well, that’s one way of looking at it, and if you were being charitable, it might even provide a decent explanation of why the Bank of England appears to have given up on the inflation target. One of the effects of relatively high inflation is to ease the burden of debt by reducing its real value. For a highly indebted nation such as Britain, inflation therefore seems to make sense as an economic strategy. With no control over their own monetary policy, the Portuguese and other fiscally-challenged eurozone nations don’t have that luxury. Without inflation to do the work for them, the austerity required to get public debt under control becomes that much greater, which is one of the reasons why Portugal will soon be following Greece and Ireland into seeking a bail-out. Britain, by contrast, gets a relatively pain-free way out of the mire. Read Article

Genetically modified crops get boost over organics with recent USDA rulings

Washington Post – At the supermarket, most shoppers are oblivious to a battle raging within U.S. agriculture and the Obama administration’s role in it. Two thriving but opposing sectors — organics and genetically engineered crops — have been warring on the farm, in the courts and in Washington. Organic growers say that, without safeguards, their foods will be contaminated by genetically modified crops growing nearby. The genetic engineering industry argues that its way of farming is safe and should not be restricted in order to protect organic competitors. Into that conflict comes Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who for two years has been promising something revolutionary: finding a way for organic farms to coexist alongside the modified plants. Read Article